TRAVERSE CITY — Have you seen that rockabilly-looking guy with the pompadour and the guitar on commercials for the sixth season of “The Voice”?
It’s none other than Traverse City native Ryan Whyte Maloney.
And the guy who appears to be talking to him from a certain red chair? That’s country superstar and “The Voice” coach Blake Shelton.
“You know the fireworks that go off and say stuff?” Shelton is shown saying on the commercial just before the camera cuts to Maloney on what appears to be “The Voice” stage. It says, “Team Blake.”
Maloney auditioned for season six last summer after missing the entry deadline for the previous season, and — if the commercial is accurate — advanced to the blind auditions held in October. That’s when contestants try to wow the show’s four coaches with their vocal ability alone in an effort to get them to turn their chairs toward the stage and to join one of their teams.
So will Maloney sail through and land on Team Blake when the “The Voice” begins airing again Feb. 24?
“You’ll have to watch to find out,” Maloney said, adding that he’s barred by contract from talking about the show.
The 33-year-old Las Vegas musician began his music career early with a Michael Jackson routine at a Traverse City Central Grade School talent competition. He rocked in bands all through Traverse City West Junior High School and recorded his first CD at 16.
After moving to Washington and returning to Traverse City about five years later, he started the band Indulge with some local friends while working a day job driving a garbage truck. The band played Union Street Station, The Loading Dock, Streeters and greater Michigan and Ohio before moving to Las Vegas. It even got some local radio airplay.
When the band broke up, Maloney stayed behind in Vegas and formed his own band, which now plays the casino circuit. Regular gigs include Gilley’s at Treasure Island, where Maloney’s 5-year-old son, Prince, often takes the mic with his dad.
Joe Alpers isn’t surprised that his old bandmate made it to “The Voice,” though his look and genre — from alternative rock to rockin’ country — have changed over the years.
“I played with him for years in Indulge and I always thought he had an incredible voice,” said Alpers, of Traverse City. “He has incredible accuracy. He’s not only one of the best guitar players I’ve ever played with but he has quite an ear for melodic lines. He was really a joy to write music with.”
If Maloney advances in the reality TV competition, it could be a life-changer. The show’s ultimate prize is $100,000 and a record deal with Universal Republic.
No matter where “The Voice” may take him, Maloney will always carry his hometown with him. Among the ink on his arms is an outline of Michigan and a detailed illustration of Traverse City’s Building 50.